What is Boolean Search?

by Jeremy Hill
May 27, 2020
What is Boolean Search?

Finding the perfect candidates for a job can sometimes feel like finding a needle in a haystack.

When this happens, it’s great to have a way to sort through a pool of candidates using only the qualifications you specify. That’s where Boolean search comes in. When you perform a Boolean search, you’re adding special modifiers to your regular search query in order to obtain more specific results. These modifiers can be words and symbols such as OR, NOT, AND, (), or “ “.By placing these words and symbols strategically alongside your main keywords, you will effectively eliminate any result that does not adhere to these parameters.

How This All Works

Does this seem confusing to you? Don’t worry, I completely understand. Boolean searches aren’t something most people do in our everyday lives. But trust me, learning the basics of how this works will save you a lot of time scrolling through search results. Here’s an example of how it all works.

Let’s say you’re combing through LinkedIn or another database for nurses with a specialization in respiratory therapy.

In your search, you would enter nurse AND respiratory therapy. It’s crucial to add the capitalized “AND” in the search. When you enter this search inquiry, you will get results from profiles that include both the nurse and respiratory therapy keywords. Using quotation marks around respiratory therapy will narrow your results even more, and I’ll explain how that works a little later on. If you want to broaden these results, but still want to use the same keywords, you can replace the AND modifier with OR. Your search will then be nurse OR respiratory therapy.

You can use Boolean searches to exclude keywords as well.

To do that, you would enter nurse NOT respiratory therapy. You’ll end up with a lot of results from people who have written “nurse” in their profiles, but none of the results will include respiratory therapy. Keep in mind, you can use as many modifiers as you want in order to get very specific results.

The last two elements of a Boolean search can also be the trickiest. Let’s start with the use of quotation marks. Quotation marks are used to indicate whether two separate words should be searched as one word. For example, if you enter respiratory therapy, the results will be made up of those two words individually. These can be broad terms, so we need to put quotation marks around them so the search engine knows you only want respiratory therapy results. To do that, you would type “respiratory therapy.”

Lastly, we have parentheses. Parentheses is a way of telling the search engine which words or phrases should be searched first. It’s best to use parentheses whenever you perform a search with OR. The words or phrases with parentheses will be interpreted first. You have to be careful with the placement of parenthesis and modifiers such as OR because your results can vary based on how you enter it.

Practice Makes Perfect

It may take some getting used to, but Boolean searches can really save you a lot of time and effort when looking for the right candidates. Once you master the terminologies and how to properly order then in a search query, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.

Jeremy Hill
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